Everyone wants a magical formula to fall in love. Wouldn't it be great if there was a guaranteed, scientifically proven exercise to build true connection and romance? That doesn't exist exactly, but there is at least one way to try and take matters into your own hands.
Art Aron, Ph.D., wrote a list of 36 questions that are scientifically proven to create connection and closeness among humans. They are not specifically designed to foster romantic connection—they work for friendship or business relationships, for example—but these questions have been tried and tested by many couples who claim that answering helped them make great strides in the love department.
Meet the Expert
Art Aron, Ph.D., is a psychologist at Stony Brook University. His research "centers on the self-expansion model of motivation and cognition in personal relationships."
To learn more about the 36 questions, we interviewed Dr. Aron and asked him to explain why this exercise leads to connection and how couples should use it in their own lives. Read on to find out what he had to say and get a list of the questions for you to try at home.
How Do the 36 Questions Work?
The methodology behind the 36 questions is relatively simple. Dr. Aron first studied the factors that determine what makes people fall in love and then drafted questions to manufacture what is needed.
For example, he found that in order for people to fall in love they have to think the other person likes them. "We set up experiments where we set up people to feel romantic connections," he explains. "What we found is probably the single strongest predictor is thinking the other person likes you. People want to think that being hard to get is a good thing. The evidence shows that it's good for people to think you are hard for others to get, but it doesn't help if they think they can't get you."
So many of the questions are designed to help each person think the other likes him or her. "There are a lot of questions like, 'Name some things you've noticed about the other person that you like," he says.
Another crucial component of true love is the ability to be vulnerable around one another. "What we've learned is what matters not so much as self-disclosure but feeling the other person's responsiveness," adds Dr. Aron. "You want to know the other person cares about you." Accordingly, many of the questions urge both partners to open up and share deep thoughts they might not have in the past.
Through his studies, Dr. Aron also found that feeling like you have things in common really matters for connection. "Actually having things in common doesn't really matter," he notes. "Thinking you have some things in common does." So many of the questions ask the couple to take note and share similarities they believe they have.
How to Use the Questions
Dr. Aron gives a warning to anyone using the questions: While the exercise will certainly deepen your connection to someone, there is no guarantee it will lead to love. "This procedure should deepen the relationship, but it doesn't necessarily make you fall in love," he says. "If everything else is in place it won't hurt. There are no negatives."
If you want to try them anyway, he says it's essential to take turns answering one question at a time. "If you reveal deep things to the other person, and then they reveal them to you, you feel safe about it," he shares. "You are likely to be responsive because it's been going back and forth. This part is crucial. Studies show if you answer all the questions and then your partner answers all the questions you don't get the same results."
Also, use the procedure sparingly. "You have to be careful with the procedure. You can't use it too many times because your answers will become rote," he warns. "If you are going to use it more than a few times, you need to make up some questions of your own. You can sort of look at the kinds of questions and come up with other ones."
The 36 Questions
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true "we" statements each. For instance, "We are both in this room feeling..."
26. Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with whom I could share..."
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you on how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.